The Online Parasite

This past week we talked about online harassment and in what ways occurs. According to Pew Research Center’s online harassment summary, about three quarters of adult internet users have either witnessed or experienced online harassment. Online harassment varies from less severe name calling and embarrassment  to the more severe form of threats and stalking. The article discusses who experiences the different forms of harassment and where they are most likely to encounter it; however, the articles doesn’t really go into much depth of how people should deal with harassment. When it came to the less severe forms of harassment like name calling and rude comments a lot of us where of the opinion of just to ignore it.

The newest episode of South Park, Safety Space, addresses Online Harassment and offers it’s own way to deal with it. Cartman posts a shirtless picture of himself and is then upset when he reads all the mean replies about him being a fat-ass. In South Park fashion the obvious solution to the harassment is to have someone run his accounts and filter all his social media comments and give him a daily report of only the nice comments. This task falls on Butters who ends up running the accounts of several insecure people and celebrities and creating their safe space, a place where its only supportive nice things and nothing mean. It makes a statement that the internet is a cruel place and that no one is really invincible from ridicule on the internet and that a lot of it shouldn’t be taken so seriously.

However, there are instances where internet harassment can’t be ignored or shouldn’t be ignored. In the John Oliver segment about online harassment, he talked about the more serious forms of harassment such as threats and revenge porn. The internet has advanced so much faster than the laws that help regulate it that things like revenge porn and serious threats are still possible and there’s not much that can be done to prevent it or punish the culprits. These acts leave people feeling traumatized and helpless, which are feelings nobody want, especially from the internet.

I’m all for freedom of expression on the internet and everything, but to a certain degree. There’s no way to ever stop name calling and trash talk but once harassment gets to the point where it affects someones life it’s crossed the line. The only true way to stop harassment is to disconnect from the internet when possible; especially if someone doesn’t want to deal with it or can’t deal with it. The sad thing is that online harassment isn’t going to go away, because the internet is too free of a medium. If the internet gets monitored to the point where all harassment stops, the internet is basically lost as an outlet of expression. Would you be willing to give up internet freedom for a less hostile environment in some situations? Has harassment affected you, or ever ruined your internet experience?


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